By Kirk Sanderson
The 18th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF) will be held Nov. 9-18, 2017, at various locations throughout San Diego. SDAFF, the largest platform of Asian cinema on the West Coast, will present more than 150 films from 20 countries in 30 languages audiences around San Diego.
“This year’s collection of films revolves around stories of home and stories of heroes within the Asian and Asian American community. These films bring to the table stories of everyday life: exhilaration, heartbreak, struggle, and the comfort that lies in sights and smells of home,” said Artistic Director Brian Hu of Pacific Arts Movement, SDAFF presenter.
Festival goers will enjoy a multitude of films, Q&A’s with filmmakers, opportunities to meet cast and crew and, new to this year, podcast panels. Additionally, for the sixth year in a row, SDAFF will present the Taiwan Film Showcase at UCSD, the biggest annual presentation of Taiwanese cinema outside of Asia. This year, the Showcase will continue to highlight the diversity of perspectives, languages, stories, and genres by feature-length and short filmmakers in Taiwan today.
SDAFF’s programs span six venues across the county during the 10-day festival, with its home base at Ultrastar Cinemas Mission Valley at Hazard Center. Opening and Closing Night will be shown at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, the 2017 SDAFF Awards Gala and various panels will take place at Marriott Mission Valley, the 6th Annual Taiwanese Film Showcase will be presented at the UCSD Price Center Theater, indie films will be playing at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park and Balboa Park’s Museum of Photographic Arts will be the home of Encore Screenings Saturday.
Opening Night Film: OH LUCY
West Coast Premiere
San Diego Natural HIstory Museum | November 9, 7 p.m.
A middle-aged woman in Tokyo escapes droll office life when she chances upon an English class taught by a charming American. Soon she’s renamed Lucy, she develops a penchant for hug-hellos, and she’s following a postcard from San Diego to find love, adventure, and her spunky niece in Southern California.
Filmmaker scheduled to attend
Centerpiece Film: MON MON MON MONSTERS
West Coast Premiere
UCSD Price Center Theater | November 12, 6:30 p.m.
In high school, there are victims and victimizers, enablers and bystanders. There are monsters too: figurative ones that feed on trouble, and literal ones that feed on human flesh. When some of the former inadvertently capture one of the latter, the real monstrosity materializes. From Taiwan’s most popular novelist-turned-director comes a savage comedy of adolescence run amuck.
Director Giddens Ko (九把刀) scheduled to appear
Closing Night Film: A BETTER MAN
San Diego Natural History Museum | Friday, November 17, 7 p.m.
Twenty years after they were together, Attiya confronts Steve, an ex-boyfriend who used to abuse her every day. With Steve’s permission, Attiya films them in conversation as they acknowledge a painful past and lay out a path for healing. Viscerally intimate, A BETTER MAN is an inspiring work of courage with few peers in contemporary personal documentary.
Director Attiya Khan scheduled to appear
Marriott Mission Valley | November 11, 5 p.m.
The red carpet event brings together more than 500 entertainment, business and community leaders to celebrate the SDAFF’s top independent films, enjoy the spectacular live entertainment and meet celebrity guests. Proceeds support Pac Arts’ year-round education programs, such as Reel Voices, a documentary filmmaking program for San Diego and Tijuana high school students. Special performances include Grammy Award-winning artist and actress Tia Carrere.
VETERAN FILM FEATURES:
West Coast Premiere
Ultrastar Mission Valley | Monday, November 13, 6:20 p.m.
6,000 miles from America is Kosrae, a Micronesian island that has become a “recruiter’s paradise” for young men looking to leave behind their fishing boats for armored tanks. ISLAND SOLDIER takes us from the Pacific Islands to Afghanistan and even San Diego, revealing the heartache of a community and its weary ties with the United States.
UltraStar Mission Valley | Saturday, November 11, 1:30 p.m.
Former enemies of the Iran-Iraq War are now best of friends living in Vancouver. Decades after they left their homelands, they return – one for family, the other for love. An astonishing true story of shared fates and life-long promises, MY ENEMY, MY BROTHER finds abounding humanity in the empathy of war’s survivors.
Filmmaker Scheduled to attend
San Diego Premiere
UltraStar Mission Valley | Wednesday, November 15, 6 p.m.
The ardor of youth and the aromas of romanticism, tucked safely in the haven of a Cultural Revolution dance troupe, get blown into the wind in Feng Xiaogang’s poignant epic of lithe bodies, fleeting fancies, and the callous weight of China’s turbulent political history. The craft and the critique are as sweeping as they are impeccable.
SPOTLIGHT ON ANIMATION:
West Coast Premiere
Ultrastar Mission Valley | Sunday, November 12, 3:45 p.m.
A girlfriend who wants plastic surgery, a gangster with a cell phone, and a hitman with a hammer encircle a bag of a million RMB. Not everyone’s making it out of this stormy night, and the question is: who will make it out with the money? Coldly nonchalant, this crosscutting noir finds in internet cafes and desolate hotels a cruel undercurrent of greed.
UltraStar Mission Valley | Wednesday, November 15, 6:45 p.m.
In a post-apocalyptic world of toxic ash, humans have retreated underground. Young Aki and friends, including the mute Fuyu, dream of the outside world through courageous conviction and Fuyu’s increasingly colorful paintings. At once dark and emotionally uplifting, COCOLORS blends traditional printmaking and 3D aesthetics to capture youth in search of light and color.
Director Toshihisa Yokoshima scheduled to appear
Ultrastar Mission Valley | Saturday, November 11, 4:00 p.m.
To contextualize this year’s shattering new film HAVE A NICE DAY, we present two earlier examples of Chinese 2D animation: PIGSY EATS WATERMELON (1958) and THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE GRASSLAND (1965). Both family-friendly shorts are presented in new digital restorations and are preceded by a short lecture by Chinese animation historian Sean Macdonald.
UltraStar Mission Valley | Sunday, November 12, 5:50 p.m.
Memories of childhood and visions of the timeless come to life through diverse animation styles in this series of shorts from Japan, Taiwan, India, and the United States.
Tickets are available online for all shows. For screenings at UltraStar, tickets can be purchased at the Ultrastar Box Office starting November 3. For shows at all other locations, tickets can be purchased at that venue’s box office one hour before showtime. General admission tickets are $9 for members and $12 for non-members. Student, military, senior and group discounts are available at the door with valid ID. Opening and closing films are $30 for members and $40 for non-members. Limited All-Fest Passes are available for $195 for members and $295 for non-members.
Major sponsors of the San Diego Asian Film Festival include AARP, Barona Resort & Casino, Sharp Health Plan, KPBS, Wells Fargo, Proven Recruiting, Sycuan Casino, McGregor and Associates, Qualcomm and Union Bank.
The Taiwan Film Showcase is sponsored by the UCSD Chuan Lyu Foundation for Taiwan Studies, the UCSD Taiwan Studies Lecture Series, the Taiwan Academy Los Angeles, and the Taiwan Ministry of Culture.
Pacific Arts Movement (Pac Arts) is one of the largest media arts organizations in North America that focuses on Asian American and Asian international cinema. Located in San Diego, Pac Arts is the presenter of the annual the San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF), the largest platform of Asian cinema on the west coast, and the SDAFF Spring Showcase.
For more information about Pacific Arts Movement, visit pacarts.org. Follow online via social media at #SDAFF2017 @pacartsmovement.